Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stick to the Conference Rooms

I'm all in favor of military-to-military contacts with China's military. That ability could interrupt a crisis escalation to war. But let's not go back to the days when we thought showing off our military would persuade the Chinese they can't beat us. They weren't learning what we were teaching.

I hold my breath when I read that we are working with the Chinese military:

The United States is optimistic about military exchanges with China and wants deeper ties to help reduce the risk of miscalculation, a top U.S. military officer said on Saturday, playing down tension between the world's two biggest economies.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno told reporters in Beijing that he had had "frank, honest and important" talks with his Chinese counterparts on establishing deeper dialogue between the two armies.

Such personal links are good. It helps to build some trust and means of communication.

What I don't like is the idea that showing off our military will scare the Chinese away from fighting us, as I wrote in 2006:

We are officially in favor of these missions because we believe that if the Chinese see how powerful we are, they won't try to fight us.

This is a crock. The Chinese know we are technically more advanced. What they think is that we are too pampered to fight them. And seeing our nice barracks and PXs with Chanel No. 5 won't convince them that we are hard warriors able to absorb high casualties. Seeing our military up close will simply give them insights into fighting us or at least cause them to believe that they have insights into fighting us[.] ...

I think seeing [USS Arizona] on the bottom of [Pearl Harbor] taught the PLA officers that if they can achieve surprise, they too can put key elements of our fleet on the bottom.

As for what they learned from the Missouri [where the surrender of Japan was signed in 1945]? Well, if those stupid Japanese had possessed nuclear weapons capable of reaching Los Angeles, we'd never have dared approach Japan let alone conquer them.

We are the ones who have miscalculated. The Chinese won't learn what we are teaching. And if it comes to war, we will find out what they learned.

I will say that the article that prompted this did not discuss the idea of impressing the Chinese with our technology the way the 2006 article did. Eight years of massive technological advances by China's fleet may have ended that fantasy all on its own.

But let's be careful out there. Keep this to talking and exchanging phone numbers rather than show-and-tell tours of our military.